Official History Of The Canadian Army in The First World War, By Col. G.W.L. Nicholson, CD, AHS.
Speedy action to augment Canadian naval strength at the outbreak of war took place on the west coast, where between 29 July and 5 August negotiations to purchase two submarines were initiated and completed, and delivery of the vessels effected – all* within a week. The acquisition of the submarines, which had been privately built at Seattle for the Chilean Government, owed much to the initiative of the Premier of British Columbia, Sir Richard McBride, who, while Ottawa was urgently seeking the Admiralty’s advice on whether or not to buy, on his own responsibility provided the purchase price of $1,150,000 from provincial funds, which the Federal Government repaid three days later.* The two craft, redesignated C.C.1 and C.C.2, were based at Esquimalt for nearly three years, carrying out patrol work and training duties. In 1917 they moved by way of the Panama Canal to Halifax, where they remained until the war ended.
Footnotes*: The intriguing story of this unusual transaction is related in detail in the Navy’s official history, G.N. Tucker, Canada, Vol. I, Chapter 13.
“Canada at War” Special session Of The Dominion Parliament, August, 1914 Speech By Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Laird Borden K.C., P.O., G.C.M.G.
On the very day before the war broke out we purchased two submarines, having first consulted with the Admiralty. Crews have been procured for both, and I believe the naval officer in command on the Pacific coast at present is an expert in such matters, and that the crews are already competent to make these submarines useful for the defence of our coast and of our shipping if occasion should require. The Rainbow, already in commission, was furnished with the necessary ammunition and stores and her crew was supplemented by a number of naval volunteers.
DOCUMENTS RELATIVE TO “THE EUROPEAN WAR”: COMPRISING ORDERS IN COUNCIL, CABLEGRAMS, CORRESPONDENCE, AND SPEECHES DELIVERED IN IMPERIAL HOUSE OF COMMONS. PRINTED BY ORDER OF PARLIAMENT. SESSIONAL PAPER No. 40, a, b, c, d; 5 GEORGE v. A. 1915.
CERTIFIED copy of a Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, approved by His Royal Highness the Governor General on the 7th August, 1914. The Committee of the Privy Council have had before them a report, dated 6th August, 1914, from the Minister of the Naval Service, submitting that, in view of the existing emergency, it is necessary to provide some additional means of Naval Defence on the Pacific Coast of Canada.
The Minister states that two submarine boats have been offered to the Dominion Government; that these boats were originally built for the Chilean Government which was unable to receive them, and that their dimensions are as follows:-
- Displacement… 313 tons.
- Length……144 feet and 125 feet respectively,
- Beam……..15 feet,
- Speed…….13 knots.
The Technical Officers of the Department of the Naval Service report that these boats are very suitable and recommend their purchase. The Minister concurs and recommends, therefore, that these boats be purchased for the sum of One million and fifty thousand ($1,050,000) Dollars, and that, as the necessity is urgent, a Governor General’s warrant be issued covering this expenditure, the Minister of Finance having reported that there is no Parliamentary Appropriation from which this expenditure can be defrayed. The Committee advise that a Governor General’s Warrant do issue as recommended accordingly. (Signed) RODOLPHE BOUDREAU, Cleric of the Privy Council.
Sessional Papers Vol. I., 39a. No. P.C. 2072, dated 7th August, 1914.—H.M.C. submarines placed at the disposal of His Majesty. Presented by Hon. Mr. Hazen, August 21, 1914 Not printed.
AT THE GOVERNMENT HOUSE AT OTTAWA.
Friday, The 7th Day Of August, 1914.
PRESENT: HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE GOVERNOR GENERAL IN COUNCIL.
His Royal Highness the Governor General in Council, under and in pursuance of the provisions of section 23 of the Naval Service Act 1910, is pleased to Order and it is hereby Ordered as follows:
The two submarine boats now at Esquimalt, B.C., are hereby placed at the disposal of His Majesty for general service in the Royal Navy. (Signed) RODOLPHE BOUDREAU, Cleric of the Privy Council.
SESSIONAL PAPER No. 40a.
From the Governor General to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. OTTAWA, August 8, 1914.
Canadian Government wish to place the two submarine boats now at Esquimalt at disposal of the Admiralty for general service. Please inform Admiralty. ARTHUR.
From the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Governor General. London, August 9, 1914.
Following from Admiralty in reply to your telegram of yesterday’s date. Offer of submarine boats gratefully accepted by Admiralty. HARCOURT.
Canada’s H.M.C.S. CC I & II Submarines First World War Purchase Scandal.
The first action of the Borden Government in connection with the War was to purchase two submarines for the defence: of our Pacific Coast styled as C.C.I. & II.
COAST WAS UNPROTECTED.
The coast was entirely without protection because there was no Canadian Navy to protect it. It was known that there was a squadron of German cruisers in South American waters that might easily make a dash for Victoria, Vancouver and Prince Rupert before British or Japanese warships in the Pacific could head them off. Thus, at the very outbreak of hostilities, actual war demonstrated to the Canadian people the need of a Canadian navy in Canadian waters, to protect Canadian coasts and Canadian shipping. It was under these circumstances that the Borden Government undertook to make up for the lack of a Canadian Navy by going to Seattle where they purchased two submarines which had been built by the Electric Boat Company of New Jersey for the Chilean Government but were rejected by the Naval Commission of the Chilean Government, as being unit for service, lacking buoyancy and considerably out of date as to style and pattern. The two submarines were built in New Jersey and shipped to Seattle for assembling, and were completed and were being subjected to trial tests for some months. The Chilean Government had sent the Chairman of their Naval Commission, Captain Plaza, to Seattle to witness the official trials, and accept, on behalf of the Chilean Government, the two submarines.
SUBMARINES REJECTED BY CHILE.
The following is an extract from a statement which Capt. Plaza, Chairman of the Chilean Naval Commission, gave to the Press, and which was published in the Seattle Sunday Times of July 26, 1914. “I can only confirm the report you have, that the two submarines built here for my government have not been accepted and that at this time they do not meet the full requirements of the contract between the Government of Chile and the Electric Boat Company of New Jersey.”
Commenting on this statement by the Chilean expert, the Times said: “Considering all the angles in the cast it is evident that the incident of the rejection of the Iquique and Antafogasta (the two submarines afterwards purchased by Canada) will cause a mild sensation in Coast shipbuilding a. well as in naval circles. It is apparent however, that aside from the discovery that the two submarines lack the proper buoyancy to make certain their safety and efficiency, they are considerably out of date as to style and pattern. They were designed several years ago, and, it is known they do not compare
with the type of submarines now building here and elsewhere for the United States Government. In fact, it is understood, were the two submarines satisfactory in point of safety and efficiency, they would scarcely measure up in standards of destructive power, speed and other requirements to the submarines recently built or on the ways in various ship yards of the country.”
The Seattle Times has wide circulation in Victoria and it is fair to assume that the facts regarding the submarines were well Known there. This was on July 26th. Immediately this report was made, ‘ Mr. J. V. Patterson, President of the Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Company, the shipbuilding firm who had assembled -the boats in Seattle, went to Victoria, so it is stated, and inter-viewed Sir Richard McBride.
AND WHAT HAPPENED!
Sir Richard McBride immediately agreed to pay $1,150,000, for these two rejected boats and wired the Borden Government were at Ottawa to confirm his purchase, which they did. I In the House of Commons on February 11th, Dr. Wm. Fugsley, M.P. for St. Johns brought this matter to the attention of the Government and in doing so stated:- “I am informed for authority which I believe to be reliable that the original contract price was $387,000 for each submarine. That made the original contract for the two submarines $774,000. I am told that after contract was entered into an extra torpedo tube and some other extras were provided which brought the contract, price up to $900,000. My information is from the Pacific Coast.”
WHAT DEFENCE DID THE GOVERNMENT MAKE?
Absolutely none, except to state that Sir Richard McBride had paid $1,150,000, for the boats and that the Borden Government has reimbursed him to this extent.
WHY WERE THREE DRAFTS DRAWN FOR THIS AMOUNT?
On examination of the Auditor General before the Public Accounts Committee on March 31st, 1915, (page 401) it is shown that three drafts were drawn for amounts as follows, totalling .$1,150,000.
No. 15862 on the Canadian Bank of Commerce, N.y…….$500,000.00
No. 15883 on the ‘Canadian Bank of Commerce, N.y……..399,437.50
No. 84894 on the Canadian Bank of Commerce, Seattle….249,961.00
The endorsements on these cheques confirm what Dr. Pugsley had stated in the House, namely that $900,000, (less commission), went to New York in payment of the submarines and that $250,000 (less commission), went to Mr. J. V. Patterson of Seattle. ,
Now we will quote what the Auditor General stated in regard to these endorsements:-
“With regard to the two New York drafts which were drawn in favour of Mr. J. V. Patterson, they were endorsed “Pay to the -order of the Electric Boat Company, signed J. V. Patterson, .and the Electric Boat Company had .endorsed them A. R. Grant, Vice-President.”
It can therefore be assumed that these two drafts totalling $900,000, less commission were received and cashed by the Electric Boat Company of New Jersey.
What about the third draft for $250,000, (less commission)?
This was payable to J. V. Patterson of Seattle a# endorsed by J. V. Patterson and had the stamp of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, Seattle.
This should be sufficient proof that $250,000 went elsewhere than to the Electric Boat Company of New Jersey.
ANOTHER APPARENT LOSS TO THE COUNTRY OF $250,000.